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ROVERING HEIGHTS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 1, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROVERING HEIGHTS By John Grafman

A case can be made for American consumer buying habits. The wanton desire that pushes the envelope to obtain the very best has given rise to significant improvements in automobiles. While a discussion as to the economic fallout from our near-out-of-control behavior could go on indefinitely, at least this has allowed for the creation of some fantastic transportation. Land Rover is one of the brands that has been the lucky recipient of many Yankee dollars over the past several years, but the brand is now facing its most challenging times since Ford purchased the British brand. With the sale near complete to Tata of India, and the uncertainty of the US economy, it seems like the hay days of Rover might be nearing its end. But that was before the LR2. The luxury of the Range Rover, and the size and capability of the LR3 have been enough to float the company dependent on SUVs for its livelihood. The easily forgotten Freelander just never gained traction here. The little entry-level product just didn't have what takes to be considered a Land Rover sibling here in the former land of cheap petroleum. A small SUV is not a bad thing, and many companies have them. However, Freelander suffered from a general complex of inferiority and cramped quarters. The LR2 avoids these potholes.

The LR2, manufactured along with other Land Rover products in Solihull and Halewood, England, is at the low end of the luxury-pricing spectrum with a base of just about $36K (including delivery charges). While in the big picture this isn't cheap, it lands in what ought to be the sweet spot of the luxury market. With many looking to downsize and economize, this will be perfect, as it never feels like this is anything less than a true Land Rover. For those that are on the way up the corporate ladder, this should be an upgrade over the likes of the basic Ford, GM, and Toyota offerings. A word or two should be injected at this point to complement the soon-to-be former keeper of the brand, Ford. The small SUV (and the family of Land Rover products) is not easily confused with the Ford offerings in terms of style, luxury, or performance. Tata is really getting a bargain. First Aston Martin sold at a fire sale price, and now this. The look of the LR2 is maybe too similar and steals much of its flavor from the other makes in the land Rover family, but it works handsomely. The outside is instantly recognizable and the new grill bars are both fresh and appealing. The interior is laid out well and is easy enough to acclimate to. The cabin space feels larger than it actually is, in part due to the generous headroom. This perhaps steals a trick from architectural design, if you can't go sideways for more room - go up. The trim material never feels anything less than what one should hope for in a near luxury SUV. Even the material in use on the dash has a nice tactile quality of having just the right amount of give, and an absence of hard, inferior plastic on the upper surfacing that are within easy reach by passengers. Lower portions of the doors are of a very nice looking plastic that while less costly, it never detracts - plus it's easier to clean muck off of.

The interior treats do give rise to the notion that this is near luxury. The audio system is really complementary, as it's absolutely necessary to have a soothing distraction while being stuck in traffic The very smooth feeling 230 horsepower, 3.2 liter six-cylinder motor is able to get the five passenger ute off and running quickly enough, and it is easy to make small incremental adjustments with the throttle with grace - never upsetting the poise of the Rover. The LR2 is faster than the 8.4 second 0-60 suggests, in part due to the high seating position. Even more impressive is the composure in which the LR2 handles. No, this isn't a slalom king, but the LR2 does induce a small dose of confidence. Normally, a vehicle that is known for off-roading abilities suffers in the street drive, but not in this case. The steering is rather direct with some numbness, but at least there is some steering feel. Now this is supposed to be the downsize product, but not everything is going the econo route. The around-town mileage is quoted by the EPA at a sad 16 MPG. Highway is 44 percent better at 23, which is still far from pleasing. In all fairness, when this was initially being developed the planners never had to contend with four-dollar a gallon gas prices in America. Also, its hefty 4,255 pounds doesn't help either. Perhaps this is the swan song for Ford. At the crap table of life, sometimes the dices rolls in your favor, and at other times you crap-out. The LR2 is a solid contender on almost all fronts. The gas mileage, unfortunately, places this on the second choice list for many. The forces that drive the price of gas in this country are also driving the car companies into a bind. We are witnessing some radical changes in very real time. By any other account though, the LR2 is a hit. Our loss is India's gain.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT A nice package and price, but the gas mileage will offset the reasonable price quickly. More information can be found at www.landroverusa.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $35,375, as tested $41,400 Engine type: 3.2 Liter, inl-line 6-cylinder, 4 valves/cylinder EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 16/23 Horsepower: 230 @ 6,300 rpm Torque: 234 lb.-ft @ 3,200 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: Six-speed automatic gearbox with CommandShiftâ„¢ that adapts to individual driver style Suspension: Front: Macpherson strut with lower control arm and anti-roll bar Rear: Strut assembly with lateral and longitudinal links and anti-roll bar Wheels and tires: Front: 18 x 8 inch aluminum alloy, 235/60R18 (V Rated) Rear: 18 x 8 inch aluminum alloy, 235/60R18 (V Rated) Brakes: Front: Power-assisted ventilated disc brakes Rear: Power-assisted ventilated disc brakes · Four-channel, all-terrain anti-lock braking system (ABS) · Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) · Emergency brake assist (EBA) · Cornering brake control (CBC) · Active roll mitigation (ARM) · Hill Descent Control (HDC) Overall length: 177.1 in. (4500 mm) Overall width: 85.7 in. (2180 mm) Overall height: 68.5 in. (1740 mm) Curb weight: 4,255 lbs 0-60 mph: 8.4 Top Speed, mph: 124

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